Growing up I always knew I was a little bit different. It was like I always fit in, but still managed to feel left out. It all started when I was in elementary school. “It” being the first time I was told “You talk like a white girl.” Now, being a little kid you really don’t know what that means.
Hell, being 26 I still don’t know exactly what point one is trying to get across when they say that. Are you saying I speak proper, that I have a higher pitched tone, or that I use the word “like” a little more than I probably should? What is your point in saying that to me?
I never knew what “talking and acting white” meant, but I do know that for many years it made me think I was different. It made me feel like something was wrong with me and that I did not fit in. It made me insecure and uncomfortable to be who I was. I would sit in class and not say much for years because I wouldn’t want to get picked on by the other kids in the room.
It seemed like every time I opened my mouth another kid, one who looked like me would start to make fun of me. I was silent for years. People would call me shy, but I really wasn’t at all. Trying so hard to fit in, only to be an outcast amongst the people I thought should accept me the most.
I was the little black girl that would listen to TLC and then put in my Ace of Base tape. I listened to it all and I liked it. I would go to ballet and jazz class and do the same thing as all the other little girls, but still felt left out.
At a young age it was pretty apparent that a lot of my friends were of a different race. These girls were the ones who were nice to me and never made comments about the way I talked, acted and dressed not at first at least.
I was able to have friends and talk freely without the fear of being judged for what I would say and how it would sound.
Once I got to high school I still got the “you talk white” “why are all of your friends white?” comments. Then I even started to get the “I’m blacker than you” comments from the ones who never made race a topic. It felt like I couldn’t win at all with anyone.
While I was always good at brushing it off it for a long time it did hurt a little to think that who I was not okay and that I needed to change. It never occurred to me how much of an impact those comments would have on me in the long run.
My mother raised me to always take pride in my speech, and to always present myself in a respectful way. To speak up and enunciate so that people could understand what I was saying. She made sure to keep me involved in church at a young age, reading scriptures during the special programs. She wanted me to be comfortable talking in front of a crowd. She has always said my voice would be the key to my success one day.
Even though other kids always made fun of my speech I would frequently get compliments from adults about being proper and polite. Those compliments gave me the confidence I needed to use my voice and speaking skills to my advantage.
I became one of the main faces of my high school tv station. Hosting shows and segments week after week for three years. The same kids that picked on me before were the same ones asking me how to be on tv. Kind of funny how that works.
I went on to get my degree in communications, do commercials for local radio and events for television stations. All using the voice I was so ashamed of at one point.
That “white voice” of mine was sure working in my favor let me tell ya! *Sarcasm*
I am a lot more comfortable in my own skin these day, but I still have some struggles with public speaking and holding conversations.
I still have that fear and anxiety sometimes that if I am talking to another black person they’ll make comments about the way I talk and act in a negative way.
It’s never been that I preferred having friends of a different race, those friendships were just always a little easier for me to start.
It’s pretty funny that the black female friends I do have all have the same experience and story growing up. It’s one of the things that we can talk and laugh about.
Looking back it makes me sad how we can treat each other sometimes. Not knowing how big of an impact our words can have on each other. Who knew that things I was told as an 8 year old would still affect me at 26 sometimes. It’s mind-blowing when you think about it.
I remember a few years ago going to help a friend for an event at her job knowing that about 98% percent of the students would be of color I was a nervous wreck. A nervous wreck that the minute I opened my mouth the white girl comments would start flying my way. I felt like I was stepping back into the third grade all over again.
If I have learned anything from all of this it is that I’ll never be able to make everyone happy. I won’t be accepted by everyone and that is completely fine.
The moment you accept your self is the moment you start to live a little again.
“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.”
A quote by Dorothy M. Neddermeyer
– Jalysa K